Civil War Essential Questions

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

When learning about the Civil War, it can be helpful to know what big questions are most worth thinking about. Here are some essential questions for helping students study and learn about the Civil War.

Civil War Essential Questions

When learning about any topic in history it helps to have some fundamental questions around which to focus your thoughts. This is what an essential question is, and it can be useful for both the students themselves, and for the process of planning a unit of study as a teacher. In this lesson, we're going to provide some possible essential questions surrounding the topic of the Civil War, split up by category. While this may seem to be a rather narrow part of history, there are a lot of layers of complexity and ways that we can think about the war. Check these out, and choose the ones that work best for you!

General Questions

  • What is a civil war?
  • What can prevent wars like the Civil War from happening?
  • What is the relationship between diversity in a country and the potential for tension and conflict?
  • Do you believe the Civil War was inevitable?
  • Do you believe that Abraham Lincoln was a good president? Why or why not?
  • When was the Civil War?

Causes & Context

  • What was life like in the Southern states prior to the Civil War?
  • What were the primary differences between the Northern states and the Southern states in terms of industry, lifestyle, and civil rights prior to the Civil War?
  • What social issues did Americans disagree on prior to the Civil War? What political issues did they disagree on? What economic issues did they disagree on?
  • What political parties were active during the time of the Civil War? How were they different from each other?
  • Why were people migrating to the United States prior to the Civil War?
  • Why was the election of Abraham Lincoln significant? What impact did this have?
  • What were the primary causes of the Civil War?

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